Plane stayed on Ottawa runway for 6 hours: passenger

MONTREAL — A woman who was aboard an Air Transat flight says she and other passengers were forced to stay in the plane on an Ottawa runway for six hours in uncomfortably warm conditions.

Maryanne Zehil said the plane, which had originated in Brussels, was meant to land in Montreal on Monday but that the 336 passengers were told it would not be possible because of storms.

The captain then diverted the plane to Ottawa.

Zehil said it was very hot in the plane and that some passengers were having trouble breathing.

She added that one person called 911 and that is when bottles of water were handed out. At that point, passengers had been in the Airbus A330 for 15 hours.

“We were stuck on the ground for six hours,” Zehil said in an interview. “At one point there was no more power. There was no air. Children were crying. It was really bad because we didn’t know why we weren’t allowed to get off so the problem could be solved.

“It was inhumane and unacceptable.”

Air Transat (TSX:TRZ) apologized in a statement to passengers on Tuesday.

“Following yesterday’s violent late-afternoon thunderstorms in Montreal, some of our flights from Europe and the South had to be diverted to other airports,” it said.

“Unfortunately, this unusual situation beyond our control caused delays of several hours for our passengers.”

It said nearly 30 planes, belonging to several airlines, were diverted to Ottawa.

“As a result, Ottawa airport staff were unable to provide with loading bridges or stairs that would have enabled the passengers on the Brussels flight to disembark or our ground crews to replenish the aircraft’s empty drinking water reservoir,” the statement added.

“The shortage of fuel also explains the lack of air conditioning on board for a time.”

In Ottawa, a spokesperson in the federal Transport Department said such incidents will not be able to happen again once Bill C-49 becomes law.

The legislation will force airlines to give passengers water, food and the possibility of getting off a plane, as long as it is safe, after being stuck three hours on a runway.

It will also oblige airlines to explain delays to passengers.

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